“It looks like there are some issues with the home’s foundation.”
For a home-shopper who believes they have found their dream home or a seller who thinks they’re closing in on a final deal, these are words you definitely don’t want to hear. Foundation repairs rank at the top of most costly problems with a home. While no one likes bad news, hiring a certified home inspector, like those at A-Pro Home Inspection, can provide peace of mind so all parties have an understanding about the current condition of this critical element of the home before anyone signs on the bottom line.
Here are some common foundation defects found in home inspection reports:
Settlement: Whether built on clay, sandy, or organic soil, all foundations will settle to some extent over time. Different types of soil vary in terms of the speed and degree at which they will compress, as well as how dramatically they will be affected by wet and dry conditions. When soil compresses at different degrees at different locations underneath a foundation, a range of problems can manifest themselves in the structure. These include windows and doors that won’t easily open; gaps around window frames; misaligned doors; cabinets and counters pulled from the wall; cracks in foundation and upper walls; and bulging and bowing walls.
An experienced home inspector can identify when cracks are cause for alarm or are structurally insignificant, as in the case of thin cracks resulting from shrinkage of concrete or the mortar in block walls.
Bulging Walls: An inward bulging wall accompanied by vertically cracks will signal to the home inspector that excessive water pressure may be at work. In addition to checking the foundation itself, the inspector will assess soil grading to determine if water is being directed toward the foundation; the effectiveness of the gutter/downspout system at keeping water away from the foundation; presence of a full sump pit; and ponding of water near the foundation. These and other evaluations will be noted by the home inspector.
Other signs of foundation problems include cracks in a basement’s poured concrete floor (a settlement issue); a broken chimney; vertical foundational gaps caused by settling; upheaval of the concrete slap caused by frost heaving, the expansion and contraction of underlying soil, or water penetration from leaks or heavy rain; a wet crawl space; and a whole house that is not plumb.
Material Problems: When assessing the materials used to construct the foundation, your inspector will report on conditions that warrant attention, such as crumbling mortar in brick and stone foundations, spalled brick, efflorescence on block walls (a sign of unwanted water penetration), and shrinkage cracks in poured concrete.
Floor Level Survey: Sagging, squeaking and/or uneven floors are other common signs of foundation issues. By visual inspection alone, it is impossible for an inspector to provide the homebuyer or seller with a completely accurate assessment of floor elevation. Yes, severe sagging can be noted, but anything beyond that is guesswork. A foundation level survey accurately documents floor variations in every room of the home. This helps identify areas of immediate concern that may require further analysis. It also provides a recorded baseline to be compared against future foundation level surveys. When rechecked, homeowners can refer to the levels recorded in the inspection report to determine if the home is settling and at what rate.
A-Pro Central Piedmont Home Inspectors use a special digital meter that accurately documents floor elevation. Results are analyzed by the inspector and noted in an easy-to-understand table included in the home inspection report.